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By knittykittybangbang, Mar 31 2016 02:11PM

First off I must say that I’m really bad at the aesthetics of display, this is definitely not going to be a ‘how to make your stall look fab’ post! If you want stall display inspiration just click over to Pinterest and there are literally thousands of pics to flick through. This post is going to be about practicality and basics, your style is entirely up to you.

If you want to have the best possible display, the only way to really do this is practice. You can imagine things will look a certain way and when set up they look entirely different or don’t fit. Draw it out then practice laying it out before you go to your first event.

Firstly, a few things that are just helpful in making your stall look great.

Work to your strengths

I’m TERRIBLE at keeping things tidy so I have to work with that rather than trying to produce something that’s going to be a headache for me to lay out or maintain. If you have skills or ‘deficiencies’ like me, work with them rather than against them. Be honest with yourself, if you are terrible at combining colours, for example, don’t try because you’ll never feel secure about how your stall looks which means you will spend forever fiddling with it.

Stick to your demographic

Your display should appeal to your target market so determine who they are and design things around them. An easy example would be items targeted at children – your display will need to be low enough for children to be able to see and reach things, it will need to be brightly coloured and you are probably wise to make it easily cleanable! Ask yourself WHO are my demographic and WHAT do they like?

Are you cheap and cheerful or sophisticated and expensive?

Your display is what will attract people to your table so have your display reflect your prices. Are you selling ‘market stall’ items or high end hand made? If you are ‘pile em high and sell em low’ then do just that, if you are looking for a high price for high quality goods, your display needs to reflect that. I wouldn’t rake through boxes for a £100 handbag and if I was looking at items 5 for £1 I probably wouldn’t bother approaching really sophisticated looking stalls as I’d assume they were too expensive.

Black can make colours look great up close but it does nothing for anyone at a distance

I love black but it seriously saps light. Sure the items on top of your table may look great but for someone looking from a distance you kinda disappear. If you are using black then add signage or something so that from a distance you are eyecatching rather than a black hole that just blends in.

Use height

Find a way to build height on your stall so people can see your goods without having to stare directly down on your table. Pinterest is great for finding ideas for how to add height, just remember to make everything very stable.

It takes a great deal of skill to make ‘a plethora’ not look ‘cluttered’

You don’t have to have EVERYTHING on your table, which applies to both stock and display equipment. Coco Chanel said of accessorizing “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” This works for table displays as much as it does for fashion. It’s only YOU that knows that something is not on there.

Your product is what people should see first, not your props

You’re not setting up a museum display, you’re trying to make your product look good. I’ve seen some beautifully crafted displays, but I’ve not been able to tell what’s for sale and what’s for decoration. If people comment on your display more than they buy your goods, then you’re doing something wrong. Strip it right back and see if your sales figures go up, then you can start adding your beautiful props back in.

Textural and natural usually work

Now I’m not saying that all displays should be textured and natural, but it’s much easier to work with that than with flat, shiney and man made. Texture can be added by using pattern as well as relief and textural cloths are much less likely to look like they need a good iron! Wood and baskets will immediately look warm and welcoming and are easy to pick up cheaply. Slate and stones also work really well to give a simple classy look and have more warmth than flat black.

If you’re not confident with colour, natural colours work well too. Creams, taupes, pale greys and pale browns usually all work well together – and work with wood, slate and baskets easily. They wont fight for attention with your products but look warmer, and are easier to maintain, than white.

Of course these wont work for everyone, but if you’re stuck for a place to start find a picture of a flower or landscape that you feel fits with your theme or brand and start building your colours and look from there.

Your opinion is most important

Now obviously everyone has different opinions about what looks nice and certain things will suit your style better than others. I’m quite a good case in point being a jeweller whose jewellery looks much better away from the jewellery standards of clean lines and shiney monochrome. Do what feels right for you and screw everyone else, including me and my ‘helpful tips’!

The biggest mistake people usually make is that they plan their display in a vacuum. They set out their ‘dream’ display and don’t take any of the practicalities of life and work into consideration.

When planning your display for fairs and markets the first thing you should be thinking of is –

What are the limitations?

All events have largely immovable limitations on space and time and these will differ per area or event.

These limitations will be things like –

• What space do I get?

• How long do I have to set up?

• How far will I have to carry items? Will I have any help?

• What is my transport situation?

• Do I need to own my own table?

• Will there be electricity available? If there is, will I need my electricals PAT tested?

• What restrictions are there on what/how I can display? (ie do I require a table cloth)

• Health and safety!

These limitations should form your display design rather than trying to force your design to fit them (but I know you lot, you’re much more into the creative bit than the planning so if vice versa works for you, go for it you chaotic beggars!)

Quick reality check – EVERYBODY would like more space, their back to a wall and electricity, so we aint all gonna get it! Create a display that doesn’t depend on these things and you’ll have a much better time of it.

Let’s just think through the limitations above as to how they will inform your final design.

Do I need to own my own table?

I’m putting this first as it is the biggest variable that you can cheaply take completely out of the equation –buy your own table! Folding tables cost £20-£40, solve the feeling of ‘what table am I going to be faced with’, and allow you to practice and plan your display exactly as it will appear at events. You’ll never be faced with a display that fitted fine at home but now doesn’t fit on the table you’ve been given and some events simply don’t have ones you can borrow.

Find out what the ‘norm’ for your area tablewise is, and buy a table the same – for example the norm here is 6ft x 2.5ft (an average ‘hall’ type table). If you’re not allowed to bring your own table to an event, then generally the tables don’t vary much from the norm. Where you are, there might be no norm. If this is the case, do some research on events you want to attend to find out if you can bring your own table and/or what size of space you will be allocated so that you can try and get a table that will provide your display base for most events.

A word of warning – a pasting table is NOT an adequate substitute for a proper sturdy table. They are not made for holding more than 1 sheet of paper and I have seen several completely collapse taking all the stallholders stock with it. (Yes one was china!)

What space do I get?

Where I am, most indoor events let you have 6ft of space. This is an absolute – you get 6ft, you make your display fit within 6ft. This is where practicing your display comes in, if you don’t have your own table, mark out a 6ft area and use it as a blank canvas. If, like me, you kinda love drawing things to scale with graph paper (mmmmm scale drawing with graph paper) do that. DON’T guess your space sizes, actually measure because a guestimate wont do.

If you decide you really NEED more space, be prepared to pay for it. You don’t need to bring, or have on display ALL of your stock at once and you should have plenty space under your table for back stock that you can bring out if something sells or someone wants something that is not on display. It is a real faux pas to apply for events and say on the application ‘I need more space because my display is big’ and can result in you getting turned down for events. Most organisers will be happy to sell you a double space but why should they turn down another paying stallholder so you can have more room, and why should you get a bigger space than someone who is paying the same as you?

If you can’t fit into the space readily available, perhaps reconsider if attending these events is right for you. If you sell very large goods – such as furniture – maybe try bringing a couple of small examples and use the rest of your space as display for pictures of your goods, wood stain/paint samples, and perhaps access to your website through a tablet or a catalogue that people can look through. Remember craft markets are not just about sales on the day! (See previous blog post)

How long do I have to set up?

Obviously we’d all love to take our time, chat, drink tea and leisurely get prepared pre event, but sorry folks, time is money. Most venues will be paid for either by the day or the hour and you’ve paid for your spot based upon how much the venue is costing, as well as paying for the heating, electricity and staff who actually have to be there while you set up. Find out what the average time is in your area and practice or amend your display until you can do it in less than that time.

How far will I have to carry items? Will I have any help?

In some (rare) cases there will be people on hand to help you carry stuff in, but keep in mind that there could be another 100 stallholders who are also wanting their help so plan on being self sufficient. Steps are common into venues so be aware that you will likely not just be able to pile everything onto a trolley and wheel them in. Feel free to ask organisers if there are steps etc but if you want the maximum opportunites, make your display items ‘step friendly’.

It may seem obvious, but make sure you can safely physically lift your boxes/cases and display items. I know more than once I’ve filled a box nice and neatly then gone to lift it and, no chance! Be aware of your own physical limitations, you don’t want to get injured.

What is my transport situation?

If you’ve got a mini you likely can’t fit a whole shop in it! If you only have room for 2 boxes in your car, that’s all you can take so plan accordingly. If you’re serious about ‘the fair life’ and transport is a problem, maybe you need to think about changing your transport situation rather than trying to work with it.

Will there be electricity available? If there is, will I need my electricals PAT tested?

Organisers have to lay out their events on a ‘needs first’ basis and sorry but unless part of your body needs electricity to keep you alive, you don’t NEED electricity. More crafters have disabilities than in the average workplace and if they need a certain space to be able to see/hear/get up then that’s much more important than someone who wants to turn on lights or charge their phone. You also need to be aware that LOADS of people ask for electricity for one reason or another and some venues don’t even have a single socket. If electricity is a dealbreaker for you, you need to realise that this will minimize your opportunities and cost you extra– is it REALLY making you that much extra money?

Some venues require anything plugged into their sockets to be PAT tested. This can be done at any electricians and isn’t desperately expensive (around £5-£10 per appliance when I last checked), but if you are working on a small budget it’s something you might not want to spend money on. Not all venues require it, but it will give you extra opportunities if you get it done.

There is an easy way around the dependence on electricity – battery power! Swap out your electric lights for battery ones and you’ll never need to worry about whether you are next to a socket. Battery tea lights and fairy lights are really really cheap (you can get them in pound shops) and if you look around you can find bigger ones in lots of different designs online. This might take you some time to figure out, but the extra opportunities, the money you save on PAT testing, and lessening of uncertainty should make up for it.

What restrictions are there on what/how I can display? (ie do I require a table cloth)

This is something you want to check out. Where I am, most events require you to have a cloth covering the sides and front of your table. Regardless of whether or not you are required to have the fronts and sides of your table covered, it’s a good idea to do so. Under your table is where you will mainly be able to stash your stuff. If you’ve spent time designing a lovely display on top of your table, do you really want it spoilt by everyone seeing the complete disaster zone that’s underneath it? (What do you mean it’s only my table that looks like that underneath???)

Whatever restrictions organisers have put on they do so for a reason so be aware that in certain situations you might have to change your display to comply. Take this into consideration in your design. Be fluid and flexible and you’ll have more opportunities.

Health and safety!

H&S is REALLY important. Don't let anyone, including yourself, get hurt. Adhere to basic health and safety rules –

• Don’t pile things up high so they might topple

• Electrical cables must not hang, they must run along the floor and be taped down

• Don’t have sharp stuff/poisons/breakables where little paws can reach out and grab them

• Don’t have stuff that people might trip on or will encroach on the walkway

• Don’t have a ‘dangerous’ display such as broken glass or mirrors, irritants or toxic substances, or unstable shelves/tables.

Remember, your limitations whether personal or otherwise are what really inform your design. Working with them will give you more opportunities and an easier time of it.

By knittykittybangbang, Jan 10 2015 02:13PM

I asked members of the knittykittybangbang presents... facebook group what they had learnt in 2014 and the answers that came back were enlightening, especially to those new to the craft fair/craft business circuit!

Invest in yourself and keep learning

Whether it be learning how to do your own books or something more specialist to your field, there is always value in learning or honing your skills. It might just be making time to read or research a bit more, or it might be taking classes or a course, it is all beneficial and can save you money in the long term! Here’s a really obvious example – how much do you pay your accountant compared to how much a booking keeping class is?

All craft markets are not created equal – pick with care!

I think everyone has to go through trying EVERYTHING to see what works for them, and I think we’ve all found events that work for us and ones that don’t. There are a lot of variables when it comes to choosing events and each of us have to work out what the important variables are for us.

Be confident with pricing and don’t undervalue yourself.

Oh how I nearly cried with joy when the first person wrote this! You deserve to be paid, just like everyone else does. If a shop didn’t pay their staff because they weren’t worth it, then there would be outcry so why do it to yourself? Pricing is too complicated to go into in this post but there is a knittykittybangbang e-book coming later in the year that will cover some of it.....I could spend hours just talking about pricing....mmmmmm numbers......

Diversification VS Narrowing of product range

There has to be a better word than ‘narrowing’ but I couldn’t find a suitable one that didn’t sound hella negative! I think this is a terribly ‘space dependent’ issue. If you have the space – whether that be in a shop, wholesale or online, then diversification is certainly no bad thing – even the most avid bow lover will tire before getting to the end of 500 pictures of bows, for example. However if you only have a 6ft x 2.5ft space to contend with, there are definitely problems that come with diversification – display looking over complicated or ‘jumble-saley’, lack of a cohesive ‘brand’, having to cart about loads of different bags/packaging. Some people manage to achieve a ‘boutique’ look and product range (Crafty Wee Birdie is a superb example of this) within the small space, but it is definitely tricky to do.

Just because a fair was good one year, doesn’t mean it’ll be good the next (and vice versa)

Things change. People change. New things come into fashion, people get bored/lazy, or have already bought everything you offer! YOU change, your product refines, your clientele changes. Never rely on something being a sure thing.

Be more organised!

Whether it be with something specific, or just in general, the need to be more organised seems to hit everyone! For a lot of creative/people focussed types things such as admin and bookwork are deathly dull or difficult. Despite being the least tidy person IN THE WORLD (seriously), I don’t feel on top of things if I don’t have my books done every month and I ALWAYS make time at the start of the week to make a proper detailed to do list. (mmmmm lists......mmmmm numbers......)

People appreciate quality

They really do! If you have a well made, well designed item, that is appropriately (ie not too much OR too little) priced then there WILL be a market for it, it’s just up to you to find it.

Brand Awareness is really important

This is one that you might need to experience for yourself, but please just trust us, it really is important! Get business cards, have a table sign, even if you just make them yourself. Remind people it was YOU they got that lovely thing from. Going a bit deeper ask yourself why when in foreign countries do so many people buy coca cola and go to McDonalds? Brand recognition = trust = safety. If you are asking someone to spend money with you, they want to feel ‘safe’. I know from the outside that sounds a bit peculiar but they want to know they can trust your product, that it won’t fall apart/poison them/have a webcam in it/have fallen off the back of a truck. Once someone feels ‘comfortable’ with your brand (and this can be as simple as having heard your name before) they are much more likely to buy from you.

Don’t waste time obsessing about how competitors are faring

Now benchmarking against others is a necessary evil for some as it makes them ‘up their game’, but this isn’t true for everyone, and spending too much time picking through the work of others is a waste of YOUR time and can only be destructive to YOU. Stop following them on facebook and twitter and start watching people and companies you would aspire to emulate, that inspire you or cater for the same demographic.

Embrace technology

This is a biggie for me. I got a tablet free with my mobile phone and I thought ‘ahhh this’ll just be a fun toy to have’ man did I underestimate it! I tend to feel that most ‘tools’ are unnecessary things just to get you to part with your pennies (to the point that some of my students make fun of me!) but my tablet and card reader have let me do so many things (and won me sales!) that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. For example - I was at an event checking facebook before I opened. A client had got in touch to ask if I had anything in green. I used the tablet to quickly snap what I had and sent the photos back to her. She picked several pieces, I told her where I was, and she was able to come and get them (and a few more!). Had I not been ‘mobile’ this would have been a much more complicated process, and would definitely have been a much smaller sale. On that same day, the folks right and left of me were losing sales repeatedly because they couldn’t take cards whereas I didn’t have this problem. Technology needn’t just be computery, it could be anything that makes tasks quicker or lets you do things you couldn’t before. Examples might be knitting or sewing machines, stand mixers (or 2 stand mixers instead of 1) or just a trolley for ferrying your stuff around. Not tech savvy? This goes back to the first point about investing in yourself and keep learning.

What have YOU, dear reader, learnt in the past year? Anything you’d like to share? Anything you would like to query or disagree with? Please feel free - but no abuse please! (as if you would....)